News for December 17th, 1996

Around 30,000 Belgrade University students greeted the students from Nis who arrived in Belgrade after their 145 mile marathon walk. Today's protest walk was headed by the 17 students from Nis, whose three-member delegation was received by President Milosevic earlier today. Only the journalists of the state-controlled RTS television were allowed to cover that reception. The students of Nis handed Milosevic the records of the electoral committees. They later stated that the President did not say a word about the protest but he did promise that the ones who broke the law would be punished.

In the past month, the war of nerves has intensified in Serbia, along with President Milosevic's ignoring the requests of the opposition and of the international community to admit the victory of the "Zajedno" coalition at the municipal elections - says today's "Daily Telegraph".

A few hundreds of workers, members of the United Branch Syndicate (UBS) "Nezavisnost" from Kragujevac started for Belgrade today, in order to participate in the rally of the "Zajedno" coalition and in the protest organized today by the UBS "Nezavisnost" in front of the building of Serbian Parliament.

This morning, the first conference of the second regular session of Serbian Parliament began. During the first hour and a half the agenda was discussed, reports Belgrade Radio B92. Quoting the words of Dragan Tomic, the President of Parliament, who called this procedure "boring", Radio B92 adds that the Parliament accepted the suggestion of Gorica Gajevic, head of the delegates group of the Serbian Socialist Party, that the discussion about establishing a panel recently announced by the Main Board of SPS should be included in the agenda.

Serbian Parliament accepted the suggestion of the Serbian Socialists Party (SPS) for organizing the panel discussion about the experiences of the elections, about the matters of import for next elections and about the role of the media. The panel discussion according to today's decision will be formed on the parity principle; one representative of the delegates' groups and one delegate on every 20 delegates from parliamentary party. Igor Mirovic, delegate from the Serbian Radical Party described the suggestion for the panel discussion as a "nonsense" since the causes of the problem cannot be eliminated in that way.

Dragan Tomic, the President of Serbian Parliament, said today that it would be good if the opposition took part in the panel discussion, because it is good opportunity for the differences to be smoothed.

Serbian Parliament passed today, without discussion, the laws concerning pensions and disability benefits, and the rights of civil disabled veterans. It also introduced certain changes into the laws concerning employment, the rights of unemployed citizens and social security. The delegates from the "Zajedno" coalition boycotted today's conference because of the annulment of the results of the second round of municipal elections, whereas the delegates from the Serbian Radical Party left the conference, since Parliament did not accept their suggestion that the current political situation in the country, as well as live TV-reports from Parliament sessions, should be discussed.

A few hundreds of workers from Belgrade and other cities in Serbia gathered in front of the building of Serbian Parliament, protesting against the Government's bill concerning employment, which was supposed to be discussed in Parliament today. The protest was organized by the United Branch Syndicates "Nezavisnost", which judged that such a law is not in the interest of workers. The Government withdrew the suggestion "because of a number of amendments and for further consolidation", but the workers' representatives said that they would protest "in spite of that" and that they were in front of the Parliament "to warn them". UBS "Nezavisnost" appealed to all the workers in Serbia, to whichever syndicate they may belong, to go on strike at 12:00 today and demand their unpaid wages, providing of conditions for continuation of production, full syndical rights and freedom, as well as "the legal state organized according to the will of its citizens expressed at the elections".

The "Zajedno" coalition is of the opinion that the delegation of the Organization for Security and Communication in Europe (OSCE), which should examine the regularity of the municipal elections in Serbia, should not consist of politicians only, but of expert lawyers (as well), said Ivan Kovacevic, the spokesman of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) today. "The delegation of OSCE expert lawyers would not have too much work to do, since we have all the records which prove the electoral theft", said Kovacevic at the press conference.

The procession of a few tens of thousands of citizens started the protest walk through Belgrade around 16:30 today. The citizens have been protesting for 28 days against the annulment of the results of municipal elections. Vuk Draskovic, Zoran Djindjic and Vesna Pesic, the leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition, were in the procession too. The citizens of Serbia do not protest because of the theft at the elections only, but also because of the thefts by which the authorities plundered the people, said the leaders of the "Zajedno" coalition on the rally. They were joined by the MP members of the "Zajedno", who did not attend today's session of Serbian Parliament. The workers from the United Branch Syndicate "Nezavisnost" joined today's protest. They also participated in the students' protest walk.

Supporters of the coalition "Zajedno" took another walk down the streets of Belgrade today, for the 28th day in a row, protesting against the annulment of the results of the November 17th municipal elections.

The United States do not need Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia, for preserving the peace in Bosnia anymore, and they are prepared to see him off the power, said Miroljub Labus, the Vice-President of the Democratic Party.

Nicholas Burns, the Spokesman of the State Department, stated at the briefing for journalists in Washington that the demonstrations in Serbia during the weekend were attended by the greatest number of citizens until now, reports the bulletin of the American Embassy in Belgrade. Yesterday evening, at press conference, Burns said that the Court's decision by which the victory of the opposition at the municipal elections was admitted in some cities of Serbia was "a step in the right direction although the Court should not have been involved in this at all".

According to a poll conducted by "Beografiti" agency, almost 58% of the citizens of Belgrade are optimistic about the protests which ensued the annulment of the second round electoral results.

The "Zajedno" coalition announced today that the Council of the Supreme Court of Serbia had passed the judgement, by which it confirmed the judgement of the Municipal Court in Belgrade, by which the results of the second round elections in the municipality of Savski Venac had been recognized.

President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Zoran Lilic, stated today that "the ruling party -- there where breaches of the laws have been confirmed--must accept the legitimate demands of the opposition." Lilic also stated that those demands are "not open to the discussion: Serbia really needs peace." Lilic also added that " the legitimacy of an election protects the interest of the people who, by their votes, decide who will be in power." These statements were made during Lilic's visit to the Serbian General Post Office today.

Today the "Zajedno" coalition in Nis lodged the complaint against the third round of elections, it was announced at the press conference held by the Coalition.

The Municipal Board of the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) for Savski Venac accused today the "Zajedno" coalition of forging the document on the basis of which the Supreme Court of Serbia recognized the results of the second round elections in that municipality.

Nebojsa Covic, Mayor of Belgrade, stated today for the Beta agency that he had submitted his resignation as the delegate in the Citizen Council of Federal Parliament. "I did that because I cannot be a delegate both in the Citizen Council of Federal Parliament and in Republic Parliament of Serbia", said Covic.

A few hundreds of students of Subotica protested again today, expressing their support to the students from Belgrade and other cities in Serbia who demand that the electoral will of the citizens should be respected.

Slobodan Milosevic, Serbian President, handed the records from the 17 voting units in Nis (given him today by the delegation of students from Nis) to the Serbian Government. The students from Nis came to Belgrade on foot today, which is a sign of protest against the annulment of the second round of the municipal elections. According to the Belgrade media, Milosevic demanded of the Serbian Government to "examine thoroughly all the submitted documentation" and "to make a detailed report about it, with the obligation to make the report public".

Around 5,000 citizens of Sabac protested today for the 17th time in the center of town against the irregularities at the municipal elections. The new gathering has been scheduled for 15:00 tomorrow at the Square of Republic.

Thirty students of the Kragujevac University will start for Belgrade on foot at 8:30 tomorrow, in order to support their Belgrade colleagues in the protest which has been lasting for 24 days now. Zeljko Savic, a member of the initiative Committee of the student protest, said for the Beta agency that the students were leaving for Belgrade in order to support their colleagues, with whom they would go and ask to be addressed by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

The Organization for Security and Communications in Europe (OSCE) confirmed today that its delegation would be sent to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The duty of this delegation would be to enquire into the situation connected with the municipal elections. The Head of the delegation, as it was stated in the seat of OSCE, will be Felippe Gonzalez, former Prime Minister of Spain; the delegation will consist of a number of diplomats of high rank and law experts. "The delegation is expected to go to Belgrade in a few days", reads the statement of the OSCE.

The protest of the "Zajedno" coalition and the citizens against the annulment of the results of the second round of municipal elections continued in Nis today. The protest rally was attended by around 30,000 people.

The architect of the Dayton agreement on Bosnia, Richard Holbrook, said today that President Slobodan Milosevic is evidently trying to put the breaks on the democratic progresses in Yugoslavia, and that Washington should reconsider its political support for him, reports Fonet. Holbrook also said that Bosnian Serbs have been, so far, completely uncooperative about the implementation of the Dayton agreement, and that Milosevic has not shown real readiness to help capture war criminals and hand them over to the Hague Tribunal, although they are within his reach. By refusing to accept the legitimate results of municipal elections, Milosevic has confirmed his anti-democratic course, and there is no reason why he should any longer enjoy the support of the USA and the west, concluded Holbrook.

The headquarters of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party today officially confirmed that the General secretary of Spanish Socialists, Felippe Gonzalez, has accepted the offer made by Flavio Cotti to lead the international delegation which will examine the results of the elections in Serbia, reports Fonet. Some Spanish newspapers have labeled the work of the delegation "mission impossible". The delegation, which is to arrive in Belgrade at some unspecified point in the near future, will also feature prominent jurists from the USA, Russia, Poland and Denmark.

UN High Commissioner, Karl Bildt, stated today that he expects changes in Serbia, reports the news agency SRNA. Bildt also said that Serbia is suffering because of the economic sanctions it has been under for the last five years and should strive to get rid of them at the earliest possible opportunity since, economically, "Serbia is in a desperate position". Bildt also said that President Milosevic should have realized long ago the urgency of the need for economic reforms, political opening and wider cooperation with the world.

Greek pro-government daily, "Ta Nea", in today's issue named Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia, as the Villain of the Year. The newspaper compares Milosevic with Russia's Alexander "The Iron Hand" Lebed. According to "Ta Nea", Milosevic's fatal mistake was the election fraud. The main reason that he is still in power is that the opposition lacks a man of Vaczlav Havel's stature. The newspaper "Exusuia" says that Milosevic made a big mistake when he thought that opposition supporters would be quickly exhausted by the marathon protests. Now, he faces international condemnation and must make some concessions, concludes the newspaper.

Today's issue of the Russian daily "Izvestia" says that "apart from the possible outcome of their struggle for power, Serbian opposition has moral advantage right now". The newspaper also says that the slogans about the "rule of the law" are too abstract for the workers who are trying to earn their daily bread, so the demonstrations are attended mostly by people from larger cities, i.e. by the urban middle class. The demonstrations have begun to resemble spontaneous public celebrations, rather than protests, concludes "Izvestia".

Another rally against the annulment of the results of the second round of municipal elections was held in Jagodina this evening. Protest gatherings of the supporters of the "Zajedno" coalition are held daily both in Paracin and in Cuprija. The protesters from these towns announced their coming to Jagodina on foot tomorrow.

Around 3,000 citizens of Leskovac participated this evening in the 14th protest gathering against the annulment of the results of the second round of municipal elections. After the gathering, the citizens peacefully walked along the streets of Leskovac. The rally ended in the center of the town, where it was announced that protest gatherings would not be held on 18th and 19th December because of the St. Nikola family feast. The protest will be continued on Friday, 20th December.

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